Jun 09, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
A potent and poignant mix of excitement and nostalgia surrounded the West Genesee boys lacrosse team’s 22nd state Class A championship game appearance Saturday at St. John Fisher College near Rochester.
Not only were the Wildcats back in a familiar setting, it was facing a familiar opponent – Ward Melville, with whom it dueled four times in state finals in the 1990s, each side winning twice.
But unlike the tense, low-scoring clashes of days gone by, this edition was never in question. Jumping all over West Genesee, the Patriots, the nation’s top-ranked team, defeated the Wildcats 16-4 and won its eighth state title, but first since 2000.
In doing so, Ward Melville kept WG head coach Mike Messere from getting a 16th state championship, which may have proved the most unlikely of the whole bunch, given how it went 10-6 in the regular season and, for long stretches, looked like anything but a contender, especially with key players like Garrett Waldron and Zach Anderson out due to injury.
Yet a dramatic post-season run, including a rally for a last-second victory over Baldwinsville in the Section III semifinals, a double-overtime conquest of unbeaten Fayetteville-Manlius in the sectional title game, a tense win over Ithaca in the regional final and an impressive performance against Penfield in the state semifinals, had WG fans believing that it was a team of destiny.
Ward Melville cared little for this sort of magic, though. All the Patriots knew was that it had gone 13 years without a state crown, and with an abundance of skill and talent on hand, was not about to let its one-time rival for state supremacy keep them from an appointment with the first-place trophy.
Following an early exchange of goals, Ryan St. Croix converting for the Wildcats to tie it, 1-1, Ward Melville took command with a 4-0 run, slicing through the usually stout WG defense as Christian Mazzone, Jack Bruckner, Jake Kepes and Brendan Hegarty all scored.
Ted Glesener briefly cut the margin to 5-2 late in the first quarter, but Hegarty answered 16 seconds later, and it was 6-2 going to the second period, where things would get worse for the Wildcats.
Refusing to let up, the Patriots extended the lead to 10-2, winning most of the battles for the ground balls to keep WG from getting possession. And when Hegarty hit on his fourth goal less than a second before halftime, WG had to cope with an 11-2 deficit and the knowledge that Ward Melville was in top form, and that little could be done to stop it.
Glesener did put in his second goal during the third period, but tallies by Heggarty (his fourth) and Kepes made it 15-3, forcing the use of a running clock, something that Messere, in 37 years of coaching, never had to deal with on the receiving end.
Anderson, who had worked so hard to return to the team from a foot injury that sidelined him most of the season, earned his team’s last goal of the season in the waning minutes.
A strong senior class now leaves, including Glesener, Anderson, St. Croix, Waldron, Dan Ginestro, Marc Niechcial, Brady Hoose, Tom Pritchard and Jimmy Cunningham. Players like Matt Koziol, David Procopio and Henry Burns will need to lead the way in 2014 if the Wildcats are to make it back to the state finals again.